Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How the brain stores information for short periods of time

Date:
August 31, 2011
Source:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Summary:
Researchers show how the brain stores information for short periods of time. The cells of several neural circuits store information by maintaining a persistent level of activity: A short-lived stimulus triggers the activity of neurons, and this activity is then maintained for several seconds.

The cells of several neural circuits store information by maintaining a persistent level of activity: A short-lived stimulus triggers the activity of neurons, and this activity is then maintained for several seconds.
Credit: Image courtesy of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Freiburg biologist Dr. Aristides Arrenberg and his American colleagues studied mechanisms used by the brain to store information for a short period of time. The cells of several neural circuits store information by maintaining a persistent level of activity: A short-lived stimulus triggers the activity of neurons, and this activity is then maintained for several seconds. The mechanisms of this information storage have not yet been sufficiently described, although this phenomenon occurs in very many areas of the brain.

The authors of the study, now published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, investigated the persistent activity in a hindbrain circuit responsible for eye movements in zebrafish larvae. This circuit, the so-called oculomotor system, gives the command for rapid eye movement by way of special nerve cells that produce a short-lived succession of action potentials. On the one hand, this "burst of fire" reaches the neurons responsible for movement in the eyes and triggers a "saccade," a rapid movement of the eye. On the other hand, it is also transmitted to a second cell population, the so-called neural integrator for eye movements, where the speed signal is integrated mathematically and a position signal is created. This signal is then transmitted to the motor neurons, thus producing -- in fish as well as in humans -- a stable eye position following the rapid eye movement. The neural integrator keeps up this signal for several seconds, until a new saccade is initiated.

The persistent activity in the neural integrator for eye positions is never perfect, as the eyes gradually drift back to their point of rest after a saccade. The authors thus had the possibility of measuring the dynamics of the system during spontaneous eye movements in the dark and testing the model without the measurements being distorted by saccade commands or visual feedback.

The authors discovered that, contrary to previous belief, the cells of the neural integrator for eye movements do not constitute a homogeneous population and that existing models for explaining persistent activity in the oculomotor system will have to be reconsidered. The scientists demonstrated that the integrator neurons do not posses a uniform dynamics and that the neurons are distributed in the hindbrain with the help of their integrator time constants.

These findings provide new evidence on the organization and functioning of circuits with persistent activity and suggest a potential explanation for their low susceptibility to failure. The study is an important milestone in the quest of network neuroscience to explain the functioning of local circuits and thus close the gap between the functioning of a single neuron and the production of behavior.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew Miri, Kayvon Daie, Aristides B Arrenberg, Herwig Baier, Emre Aksay, David W Tank. Spatial gradients and multidimensional dynamics in a neural integrator circuit. Nature Neuroscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nn.2888

Cite This Page:

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "How the brain stores information for short periods of time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824093926.htm>.
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. (2011, August 31). How the brain stores information for short periods of time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824093926.htm
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "How the brain stores information for short periods of time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824093926.htm (accessed July 27, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins